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Last Updated: Sunday, 30 October 2005, 10:59 GMT
Jon Sopel interview
Please note BBC Politics Show must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.

NB:This transcript was typed from a recording and not copied from an original script.

Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for its accuracy.

On Politics Show, Sunday 30 October 2005, Jon Sopel interviewed:

  • George Osborne MP, Shadow Chancellor
  • Damian Green MP

George Osborne MP
George Osborne MP, Shadow Chancellor

Interview with George Osborne

JON SOPEL: Well I'm joined now from Manchester by George Osborne, the Shadow Chancellor, who's also a close personal friend of David Cameron and a leading light, if not the leading light, in his campaign.

George Osborne, thanks for joining us. Are you home - clean and dry now?

GEORGE OSBORNE: Well no, not at all, I mean the ballot papers haven't gone out, we have not had the hustings, which are going to take place all over the country and we are not taking this contest for granted at all; so David Cameron for example, will be in the South West tomorrow and then here in Manchester on Tuesday and then in Middlesbrough on Wednesday.

We are going and taking the fight to our opponent in this contest, David Davis - we are showing that we're energetic, full of new ideas and we're out there to win as many votes for the Conservatives Party membership as possible.

JON SOPEL: If we were to take a snap shot at the moment would you accept that you are way out in front.

GEORGE OSBORNE: Well I think I accept that the Conservative Party and indeed the broader public are very excited about what David Cameron is offering and there is definitely a high level of interest and anecdotally I've spoken in a number of Conservative Associations in recent days and of course there is an over-whelming amount of enthusiasm and support for David Cameron but as I say, complacency is our worst enemy in this contest and as the person who's helping manage his campaign, we are out there fighting for every vote, showing the kind of energy and vigour which I think he'll demonstrate when he's Leader of the Opposition.

JON SOPEL: Will the Conservative Party have ever elected such an inexperienced leader.

GEORGE OSBORNE: Well it depends what you mean by inexperienced. Of course he's only been in parliament for four or five years like me, but he has worked in Number 10 Downing Street, in the Treasury, in the Home Office and of course, you've seen in the last couple of weeks that as each big occasion has presented itself to David Cameron, he has risen to the challenge and that is what you want in a Leader of the Opposition, it's what you want in a Prime Minister too.

JON SOPEL: Well how well did he do against Ruth Kelly this week over education? There was Ruth Kelly, having had a Cabinet row and there were a lot of people who came out of the Commons afterwards and said, well your man didn't really score the goals.

GEORGE OSBORNE: Well I think on the contrary he's put the Labour Party in the curious position where many of the reforms which Tony Blair wants to push forward in Education are supported by the Conservatives and opposed by the Labour party.

It's a rather smart tactical manoeuvre which David Cameron has orchestrated and put both Ruth Kelly and Tony Blair in the invidious position of relying largely on the Conservative Party for support, in terms of making schools more independent of government, having greater school freedom and so on - we'd go a bit further than that, but it's the kind of as I say, astute politics, which I think you'll see more of if David Cameron is the Leader of the Opposition.

JON SOPEL: Well, let's talk about policy because one of the accusations is that you're travelling very policy light in this election - not unlike maybe Tony Blair ten years ago. On the schools thing, on education, do you believe for example what David Davis has said, of building, a big building programme for grammar schools?

GEORGE OSBORNE: Well I think the problem in education is the quality of education in the vast majority schools for example, here in Manchester and I don't think that problem is solved just by building a new grammar school in a city like Manchester.

We've got to get in to the (interjection) the vast majority of secondary schools in places like this city, we need to improve standards, we need to introduce rigor in to the exam system. We need to give real choice and opportunity to parents who don't have much choice at the moment about where they send their child to school. So I think you need a slightly broader education policy than just simply bringing back two dozen grammar schools.

JON SOPEL: Right, so no more grammar schools. Clear.

GEORGE OSBORNE: Well I don't think returning to the grammar school is, is the answer to mainstream education in a city like Manchester and indeed anywhere else in the country.

I'm all in favour of grammar schools where they exist and indeed I think schools should have the freedom to select if necessary, on the basis of academic ability.

But what I'm interested in, indeed what David Cameron is interested in, is improving mainstream education for the majority and that's where the Conservative Party needs to focus its attention.

JON SOPEL: Okay, that's clear. What about tax cuts?

GEORGE OSBORNE: Well as I say again, as David Cameron said, indeed as I have said, we need a low tax economy if we're going to compete with the likes of China and India, but setting out in detail a budget, five years before you actually get a chance to implement it, is in my view a misjudgement, and indeed David Davis, he's been Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, I think he above anyone, would want to see the public accounts before he sets out detailed tax policies.

As I say, it's much better to set a broad direction at this stage, which is for lower, simpler, flatter taxes, if necessary and then people know the direction you're travelling in, but you're not actually writing budgets, five years before they have to be delivered.

JON SOPEL: Okay, so it was a misjudgement by David Davis. Listen to what Quentin Davies in our film said about your flat tax idea, he said, I think it is frankly a pretty cookie idea and I think you don't need to have an enormous commission of many many months of enquiry. I think a few minutes or half an hour sound reflection, will tell you that it isn't viable.

GEORGE OSBORNE: Well I'm afraid to say I actually disagree with almost everything Quentin Davies has ever said. I often find myself on the wrong side of the argument with him, even though we're both Conservative MPs. And I profoundly disagree with him on this.

Many countries around the world, many developed countries are looking at flatter simpler taxes, I've set up the tax commission with a whole range of experts, including people who used to run the Inland Revenue, people who run the low income tax reform group; so that we take in the concerns of low income people, including top British businessmen, including representatives of the major business organisations.

It's exactly the kind of detailed work that the Conservative Party needs to do over the coming years so that within the framework of lower taxes we have an economic policy that makes us competitive and a tax system that is much simpler.

JON SOPEL: But you know, the other accusation, not only that your policy like that - it's a bit gimmicky, the flat tax idea, and what about this one of withdrawing from the European People's Party. I mean I'm again inviting you to disagree with Quentin Davies. You know, would you rather be sitting with the League of Polish Families, UKIP or in the same group as the formally fascist Italian National Alliance.

GEORGE OSBORNE: Well there's no suggestion we'll sit with any of those parties. Again, what David has said, and I agree with him, is that it's inconsistent at the moment for us to sit with a Party, the EPP, where when we have profound disagreements (interjection) ...

JON SOPEL: (overlaps) So splendid isolation would be better.

GEORGE OSBORNE: Well hold on. We have profound disagreements about the future constitutional arrangements of Europe.

Now I think there is plenty of scope to create a new grouping with sensible parties on the centre right of politics, there is clearly an argument going on across Europe, particularly for example in Central and Eastern Europe, about the kind of Europe people want to see and what people don't want is a United States of Europe and I'm afraid in the Constitution at the EPP, they remain committed to ever closer federal union, and therefore it's inconsistent for the Conservative Party to go around campaigning on a Eurosceptic platform and then sit with the EPP in the European Parliament.

JON SOPEL: Just on Labour, David Blunkett's brief Directorship of a DNA testing company, his failure to consult what is, you know in journalise we call the sleaze watchdog, there have been calls for his resignation, do you support those?

GEORGE OSBORNE: Well this is Chris Grayling, my colleague, who's done a tremendous job on holding David Blunkett to account.

I think David Blunkett has some very serious questions to answer. I think there's almost certainly a breach here of the Ministerial Code. Chris Grayling has written to the Prime Minister and the Cabinet Secretary, asking them to investigate.

I think that investigation needs to take place and then we need to consider David Blunkett's position. (interjection) ... But, well hold on, as Chris Grayling has himself said, on the face of it, David Blunkett's position is increasingly untenable.

JON SOPEL: And you agree with that.

GEORGE OSBORNE: Yes. I've just said that. Yeah.

JON SOPEL: And so if there has been a breach, he should resign.

GEORGE OSBORNE: Well I think we, let's wait for the Cabinet Secretary and the Prime Minister to do the job they're supposed to do. David Blunkett has breached a ministerial code.

I should point out by the way that the reason why there is this row about what ministers do after they resign, and the appointments they hold, is because Gordon Brown as Shadow Chancellor in the days of the Conservative Government, made such a fuss about it. So one would hope that Gordon Brown, Tony Blair and others, will practice what they used to breach.

JON SOPEL: Okay George Osborne, thank you very much indeed.

End of interview

Interview with Damian Green

Damian Green MP
Damian Green MP

JON SOPEL: Well let's get a view now from David Davis's Campaign Team.

I'm joined now by Damian Green, Damian Green welcome.

Are you prepared to accept that it's all over?

DAMIAN GREEN: No, I agree with George, of course it's not all over. This campaign has been extremely volatile. It's got a long way to run.

Great stress is being put in your programme on your poll; it's a poll of two hundred and fifteen people, of whom a quarter haven't made up their minds yet; so with the best will in the world, I think this contest is not over.

JON SOPEL: But there's a far chance that an awful lot of people are going to be voting next weekend. The ballot papers go out this week, a lot of diligent Tories - energised by your party conference, who'll want to vote immediately, and it would seem at the moment that your man is not in front.

DAMIAN GREEN: I think that's probably true - if the election were to-day, I think as you say, David Davis is not in front.

But what we've been doing over the past few days is actually having a proper battle of ideas, setting out what a David Davis opposition would mean, what a David Davis government would mean and inviting our party members, to look at the substance of what they, what they will be inviting other people to vote for in 2009.

JON SOPEL: Are you clear what a David Cameron leadership would mean? (interjection) Because I've tried to pin down on some of the policy areas and nothing, we're not getting the same specifics that we're getting from your man.

DAMIAN GREEN: Well, and it's not for me to answer that. You've just had George on articulating (overlaps)

JON SOPEL: (interjects) What do you think are the answers.

DAMIAN GREEN: Well I mean George can speak for himself and so can ... (interjection)

JON SOPEL: I'm asking you what you thought of what - the explanations he gave.

DAMIAN GREEN: Well, what we are doing is setting out more detailed directions and policy, and policy principles. You know now that a David Davis government would mean significant tax cuts, the exponent of twelve hundred pounds for the average family in this country.

You know that we would build new grammar schools in our inner cities to address the worst problem for our education, which is the problem of those who are trapped in the inner cities.

You know that he would reverse Gordon Brown's raid on the pension funds, and so therefore, what we're doing is building up a picture of what a David Davis government would mean, and therefore what the Conservative Party would be offering the British people at the next election, and I think that's quite an important piece of substance for our members to look at before they vote.

JON SOPEL: We could be four and a half years away from the next general election. How can you promise tax cuts now?

DAMIAN GREEN: Well what we can, what we can do is say, is say what David Davis has said, that we would reduce the proportion of - that the State takes of all our money from 42 to 40% and that would leave room for significant tax cuts. And I think the Tory party has to do that because the mistake we've made ...

JON SOPEL: (interjects) You've gone in to the past three elections promising tax cuts with no results.

DAMIAN GREEN: What we've done for the past two elections, the two elections we fought from opposition is unveil policies in the last few months before the election, and had people say well, you're promising us these now but we don't know why you're promising them us, other than as an electoral gimmick, and so they haven't believed us. I think the difference we need to make, what we need to learn actually from Tony Blair, is that you need to set out a clear coherent policy direction, early in the parliament and argue it out.

JON SOPEL: Who is the Right wing candidate in this contest because here are you, you're from the Tory Left, Tory Reform Group. One nation Tory, I mean, who is the Right wing candidate here. Who's the Left wing candidate.

DAMIAN GREEN: I think that's a very good question because I think both of them have a mixture . I think David Davis has shown early on, that he can unite the party. He's got supporters from the Cornerstone Group on the Right of the party to people like me, I'm Chairman of Parliamentary Mainstream - and that's one of the things the party needs is the ability to unite all views within the party.

JON SOPEL: You're not worried that you've backed the wrong horse in the hope of getting a good job at the end of this.

DAMIAN GREEN: No, I've backed David Davis because I think he would make the best Leader of the Opposition, and the best Conservative Prime Minister and with every day that passes, the fact that he is addressing the main substantial issues that people will care about at the next election, and voting at the next election, it's not going to be like Big Brother or Pop Idol, it's a serious vote that will affect you for years to come. I think people will want to have a lot of substance attached to the Conservative offering, and that's what David Davis is giving.

JON SOPEL: Okay, Damian Green thank you very much indeed.

End of interview

NB:This transcript was typed from a recording and not copied from an original script.

Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for its accuracy.

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